Don’t you want this over with?
Over the last few weeks, I have been talking and corresponding with a great many people, and the best that I can describe their predominant mood—and mine—is the dread one feels while waiting for test results to come back from the wrong type of doctor. We are in a surreal state—intensely interested in the outcome, but feeling little connection to the protagonists. We cling to every bit of news, every tweet, every twitch of the polling meter. And the slime keeps rolling in—the threats, the disgusting racism and Anti-Semitism from some of Trump’s supporters, the constant drip-drip of Wiki-leaks, showing us how politics is really done, the parade of personal outrages perpetrated (allegedly) by Trump or Bill. It’s an endless list of things neither to be admired nor emulated.
There is something just so wrong with this election. Candidates and campaigns, especially for the Presidency, are supposed to call to the better angels of our natures. Even Richard Nixon, in the bitterly divisive 1968 campaign, adopted the slogan “Bring Us Together Again.” We aren’t supposed to have contests where half the electorate thinks they have a bulls-eye on their backs.
And my fear—and it is fear—is that this will be the new normal. Republicans in the House have already announced that if Hillary Clinton is elected they will immediately launch new investigations—Jason Chaffetz indicates he has at least two years’ worth of material. In the Senate, the GOP promises to block any nominations to the Supreme Court for so long as it takes to get a Republican President. Their previous justification, “Let The Voters Choose” has been postumously amended to fit new facts on the ground. Trump, of course, has been saying for weeks he can only lose by fraud, and Trump-aligned organizations are sending poll-watchers (many armed) to polling places that “look” like they vote Democratic. On the Democratic side, what you hear is real anger. Minority voting is down substantially in certain swing states as a result of GOP-led efforts to reduce early voting hours and locations. On more of a slow-burn is the spectacle of Trump’s poll numbers rising as previously hesitant GOP voters “come home” and back him despite his manifest moral and intellectual unfitness for the job.
Then there’s FBI Director James Comey, who broke with precedent and policy to come up with the mother of all October surprises. I have a more charitable view of Comey than most people. While he made what I think was the wrong decision (and even many Republicans have acknowledged it) I have a hard time believing that he would deliberately align himself with either campaign—he has a reputation for integrity, and there is nothing in his background that indicates that degree of partisanship. But, what Comey did (and, what he did not do, which was to refuse to release information on Trump ties to Russian interests) is having a fundamental impact on not just the Presidential race, but also down-ballot at the Senate and House level. When this is over, win, lose, or draw, Comey’s decision to interrupt the flow and intervene will be seen as the most consequential moment of the campaign. It may change history.
It takes a special kind of ego to run for President. You have to have the skin of a rhinoceros and the self-esteem of Napoleon. You must expect to be dragged through the mud, to be insulted, to have your words distorted, to have your political opponents fabricate and photo-shop, to have every crack and crevice of your life placed under the unsparing electronic microscope of a press eager to report, and often, make news. There are some who say that Trump and Clinton, two immensely controversial (and flawed) candidates, are the exceptions, and this is a one-off election. I hope that is true. But if this really is the way forward, you wonder whether people who have good intentions and a genuine desire for public service will turn away to other pursuits—Gresham’s Law as applied to politics.
I have no idea what is going to happen next Tuesday. I woke up at 4:30 this morning and the awfulness came flooding in. But to my friends and to voters in general I would say that the only thing that gives me a weird sort of comfort and a direction is the experience I had this last Sunday, as one of about 5000 runners in a race in Central Park. At about the one-mile mark, a pedestrian decided she couldn’t wait for the flow of traffic to open up, and dashed between the runners to get the other side of the road. The people in front of me slowed, and I got distracted. It was only a moment, but that’s all it took. I stepped on a traffic cone, and went down in a heap. Hands, wrist, and knee hit the ground. The next second, I had complete strangers helping me up, brushing me off, squirting water on my hands.
And we went on. My palms stung, my left arm hurt, my leg was a little stiff and my knee burned. I wiggled my wrists and fingers and it looked like everything still worked, so I kept going. It wasn’t fun. A couple of miles later, I drew abreast of a few of the runners who had stopped earlier and said thanks. They offered to stay with me the rest of the way, just to make sure I made it in. A woman named Mercedes said “don’t worry, baby, we are all in this together.” I told them to go on—I was stiffening up, and I knew that the worst hills were still ahead.
I finished the race. Somehow it seemed wrong to walk off the course. My time was terrible, I was red-faced and sore by the time I got in, but I finished it anyway. Some nice people in the medical tent took a look at my hand, cleaned up and put a bandage on my gouged right knee, and sent me home. There were others in worse shape.
Somewhere in that five miles was a metaphor. Ignore the distractions, focus on the end goal, and finish the darned race. If you don’t run, you can’t win.
Finish the race.
Michael Liss (Moderate Moderator)
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